In a mild shock -- mild because it's mentioned before the elections, but probably won't be when it really matters after the polls close -- Frank Bajak and Jorge Rueda at the Associated Press, in a story about how the last opposition TV station in Venezuela is being sold to an insurance magnate who is reportedly "friendly with government," noted the extraordinary handicaps that Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate faces as he attempts to unseat the Chavista successor to the late dictator Hugo Chavez in April's upcoming elections.

Specifically, the pair wrote:



CNN, which if I recall correctly severed formal ties with the Associated Press some time ago, quoted former congressman Joseph Kennedy II's reaction to the death of Venezuela's authoritarian leader Hugo Chavez as follows: "President Chavez cared deeply about the poor of Venezuela and other nations around the world and their abject lack of even basic necessities, while some of the wealthiest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend" ... There are close to 2 million people in the United States who received free heating assistance, thanks to President Chavez's leadership. Our prayers go out to President Chavez's family, the people of Venezuela, and all who were warmed by his generosity."

Here is how Christine Armario at the AP, with the help of Steve LeBlanc in Boston, sanitized Kennedy's remarks:



Woody Guthrie was an American original who wrote some enduring music and did a lot to publicize the plight of the people of the Dust Bowl.  There's just one little inconvenient truth about Guthrie: he ran in Communist circles.  Though it's reported that he never officially joined the party, he's quoted as saying that the "the best thing that I did in 1936 was to sign up with the Communist Party." He also wrote 174 columns for the Communist Party's Daily Worker newspaper.

But nary a mention was made of Woody's Communist connections on Morning Joe today.  Instead, Mika Brzezinski giggled like a schoolgirl over the numerous, explicit sex scenes contained in a recently-discovered novel that Guthrie wrote, House of Earth.  View the video after the jump.



Surprised they didn't opt for the auto da fe analogy . . .

On Chris Hayes's MSNBC show this morning, Ali Gharib, editor of the "Open Zion" blog at the Daily Beast, described the questioning of Chuck Hagel at his Senate confirmation hearing as "a Republican purge" and a "Maoist public shaming."  Michael Hastings of the Rolling Stone begged to differ, finding it more reminiscent of "Stalin."  View the video after the jump.



At the end of Thursday's NBC Rock Center, host Brian Williams touted an "unexpected moment" with the widow of Robert F. Kennedy when he asked "what she remembered about Fidel Castro, who, it turns out, she's met several times." Kennedy fondly remembered: "He was very warm, very emotional. He clearly would have liked to have been friends with President Kennedy and with Bobby."

Williams lamented the friendship that never was: "It certainly didn't work out that way. And of the three men, only Castro survives."



In Caracas reporting on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez winning an "unprecedented third term" for Monday's NBC Today, reporter Kerry Sanders seemed to be swept up in the excitement: "For Chavez's supporters, his reelection is an emotional moment in history. Fireworks filled the skies as a street party continued well into the early morning hours. A Chavez victory, say supporters, means his brand of socialism is here to stay." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Sanders promoted Chavez as "a star among the poor in South America" and propagandized for his dictatorial regime: "Chavez's socialist revolution has captured the imagination of the poor here, in large part because he's taken this nation's oil wealth and used its profits to give away free homes and subsidize grocery bills."



The Associated Press, in a Sunday evening dispatch, reported that the refinery explosion in Venezuela, which has thus far killed "at least 39 people" and injured "more than 80" (as of 10 a.m.; now it's at 41)  is "Venezuela's deadliest refinery blast ever." I'm sure that I join all readers here in expressing deep condolences and prayers for the victims and all who have been affected.

Obviously reporting the details as they emerge will for a time be more important, but it appears that the Amuay refinery explosion is the deadliest such refinery incident in world history, and by a wide margin. If so, the press, after determining that this is indeed the case it, should get around to reporting it as such.



On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King applauded colleague Nancy Cordes for her "great question" to President Obama on Monday about a dishonest ad from a supporting super PAC that blamed Mitt Romney for a woman's cancer death. However, they failed to mention Cordes's earlier question on how Obama's campaign has "suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital."

The President falsely claimed that "nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon" in his answer to Cordes, an additional detail that went unnoticed by the CBS on-air personalities. Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, made the felony suggestion on July 12, 2012: "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people."



Now here's a surprise. The lead local section story of the Times on Wednesday was Joseph Berger's profile of the embrace by the city's Soviet immigrants of the Republican Party, in particular Ronald Reagan's anti-communism: "Among City's Soviet Immigrants, An Affinity for Republicans."

To many Russian and Ukrainian immigrants, the cornucopia in the shops along Brighton Beach Avenue -- pyramids of oranges, heaps of Kirby cucumbers, bushels of tomatoes with their vines still attached and a variety of fish, sausages and pastries -- seems like an exuberant rebuke of the meager produce that was available to them when they lived in the Soviet Union.



In a piece of propaganda that would make Cuba's Castro regime proud, on her Tuesday MSNBC program, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell cheered the communist state's "highly regarded" health care system, "and especially one of Fidel Castro's signature projects, which is training doctors, doctors who then provide free medical care throughout Latin America."

Mitchell proclaimed: "As the U.S. debates health care....We went back to the Latin American medical school here to talk to American medical students about what they're learning about medicine, about Cuba, and about themselves." That soon became disturbingly apparent as student Cynthia Aguilera gushed: "...after graduating with no debt, no worries about paying off loans and having to get a high-paying job, we can return to our communities [in the U.S.] and work in them and try to uplift them the same way that Cuba uplifted us."



The New York Times coverage of the Pope's trip to the dictatorship of Cuba has a strange, cheap-shot emphasis on how the Cuban people are coerced to attend such rallies, an authoritarian power play, but one the paper rarely if ever bothers to address during Cuban May Day rallies held in celebration of communism. A nytimes.com search suggests the Times has never previously used the words "orchestrated" or "intimidation" to describe the Cuban government coercing people to attend May Day parades.

So why use that explanation for the crowds surrounding the Pope, but leave that obvious explanation off when talking about crowds listening to dictator Fidel Castro's latest multi-hour-drone-a-thon of a speech?



Novelist (and Socialist Workers Party member) China Mieville wrote the main essay for the London issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, "'Oh London, You Drama Queen.'" According to him, London is a mess of racism and youth alienation, and only free public housing and celebration of loud music on the tube will save it. He also excused last summer's burning and rioting, motivated by a "deep sense of injustice": "Youths taking TVs, clothes, carpets, food from broken-open shops, sometimes with dizzy exuberance, sometimes with what looked like thoughtful care."

Even the photo captions are replete with leftist smuggery, contrasting an old-fashioned butcher with a bleak-looking dance club: "Smithfield Market, in Central London, is rooted in the past./The scene at Plastic People, a club in Hackney, looks to the future."